Google has been incrementally making its workplace products more and more functional — all, it seems, with one goal in mind.
It would like to eat Microsoft Office 365's lunch.
When it first launched Google Apps (now called Google for Work), the best feature was the cost. The products were free to use, although there was little in the way of service or advanced business functionality.
But that's been changing. More companies are piggybacking on Google for Work's foundation to launch their own products and, as these products mature, continue to invest and expand them.
One of the latest examples is ProsperWorks, the developer of Simple CRM for Google Apps.
Money for Something
ProsperWorks recently completed a Series A financing round for $7.5 million, led by True Ventures and joined by existing investors Bloomberg Beta, CrunchFund and others. The new investment brings ProsperWorks' funding to $10 million.
The company is using the proceeds to further develop its app, which is the first fully-integrated Google-based CRM application.
ProsperWorks is onto something with its strategy of aligning itself with Google for Work's star.
Vendors in the space have consistently targeted enterprise-level companies. Mid-level and small business companies also have their fair share of offerings, but these products are designed for firms with full-blown CRM operations — and budgets.
There is, in short, a gap in the market for companies that want good CRM functionality but don’t necessarily have the resources to invest in lengthy implementation or training.
These users are ProsperWorks' sweet spot.
"We integrate directly into the tools that people use to communicate with their customers," CEO and founder John Lee told CMSWire. There are numerous advantages to this approach: no training, the elimination of duplicate data entering and fresh data that is more accurate.
The app provides an extension that sits within Gmail, he explained.
Then, when a potential lead contacts the sales rep, he or she can search for the prospect's name throughout the organization. "If anyone else was contacted by 'John Smith' at the organization, the rep is able to see that correspondence. She doesn’t have to hunt for information." That feature alone, Lee said, saves a huge amount of time usually spent doing preliminary customer research.
A feature called Chrome extension for Gmail illustrates ProsperWorks larger MO or approach to the CRM space.
It was specifically created to help employees work smarter and faster by automating mundane tasks, intelligently organizing customer data and prompting sales actions all within Google's familiar interface, Lee said.
"CRM has become a four-letter word, with employees having to constantly feed the system, taking their valuable time away from closing the deals they’re meant to be focused on," he continues.
Other features in ProsperWorks include Zero-touch data entry with Google Apps, which links email messages, files and calendar events to contacts and opportunities and task synchronization with Google Calendar for automated task due date reminders.
The app, one of the first to be designed on Google's Material Design language, also comes equipped with design elements and purposes specific for CRM, such as real-time business intelligence insights for sales forecasting and a visual drag-and-drop pipeline for simplified report reviews, organization and tracking.
The Google for Work Engine
Certainly there are CRM apps that provide similar features. And despite the relative scarcity of simple CRM offerings for smaller businesses, ProsperWorks does not stand alone in this space.
The company's secret sauce, as noted above, is its relationship with Google for Work. But how much of a boost, really, can piggybacking on that productivity suite really give? Quite a lot, actually, for those not paying closing attention to the product's growth.
While Google doesn’t break out revenue for its At Work enterprise business – it's part of Google's "Other" segment -- the overall numbers are impressive. Google's "Other" generated almost $7 billion in revenue in 2014, making it Google's fastest-growing segment, increasing 40 percent from 2013.
There are other indicators of the platform's growth and popularity. According to Google, more than 5 million businesses use Google Apps, including regulated industries like finance (BBVA), healthcare (Roche) and aerospace/defense (Rockwell Collins). Translation: before these companies would count themselves as users, Google had to meet their stringent security and reliability standards.
Google also reports that there are more than 600 companies with more than 10,000 active Google Apps users and that its business file storage product, called Drive and Drive for Work, attracts more than 1,800 new customers each week.
"Google has done an amazing job reaching parity with Office products," Lee said.